Award-winning charity Sport Aberdeen has handed out 260 free memberships to care experienced young people (CEYP), both in and out-with Aberdeen, through a pioneering initiative since the beginning of 2017.

The Looked After Project has provided CEYP aged five to 26, who are currently looked after or care experienced, with a free Sport Aberdeen membership, giving them access to a variety of gyms, swimming pools and sports centres across the city. 

The project, which started in 2016, is a joint venture between the charity and Aberdeen City Council, supported by the Virtual School. The main aims are to increase the participation of CEYP in sports and physical activities to promote confidence, self-worth, positive self-esteem and mental health, all of which impact on a child and young persons’ ability to engage in their learning.

The Looked After Project has also provided in the region of 115 additional memberships for parents and ‘Kinship Carers’ enabling them to support the child or young person by attending activities or gym sessions alongside them. A further 20 memberships have been provided to young people engaged with Action for Children’s Priority Families Project.

Keith Gerrard, Director of Healthy and Active Communities, said:

“This initiative is such an important source of positivity for care experienced young people and those that look after them across the city. The strong, ongoing partnership between Sport Aberdeen and the Education and Children’s Service at Aberdeen City Council is integral to its success, allowing us to create opportunities for people and change the lives of looked after children and young people through sport and physical activity. 

“It is my hope that we can continue to reach more people in the north-east who are most in need of the mental and social benefits that participation in sport can bring about.” 

Laura Gray, Kinship Team Leader with Aberdeen City Council also commented on the positive impact:

“The initiative between Sport Aberdeen and our Kinship Carers and the children they look after has been greatly appreciated. 

“To ensure that looked after and care experienced children living in kinship are included, and physically and emotionally healthy, we recognise the benefits of engaging in sport and sport-based activities.

“Many kinship families have been able to sign up for a Sport Aberdeen membership and take part physical activity, which may not have been otherwise affordable, whilst having fun and spending time as a family.”

Larissa Gordon, Virtual School Head Teacher with Aberdeen City Council:

“Since the project started, children and young people have been able to try out a variety of sporting activities that they may otherwise not have had the opportunity to do.

“Head Teachers have reported the positive impact they have seen in the confidence and self-esteem of the young people who have been involved in activities as part of an alternative curriculum.  This has led to more positive social interactions in the classroom, an increase in engagement in their learning and an increase in their attendance, all of which helps to close the attainment gap and support young people into positive destinations.

“Some young people have also benefited from the opportunity to increase the breadth of qualifications undertaken as well as being able to take part in volunteering and work experience.”